The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist at least twice a year for an exam and cleaning. While this doesn’t sound like much at first, it can be extremely difficult for people who fear the dentist. Unfortunately, dental fear is a very real problem that plagues many people. For some, it can cause anxiety, while for others it can prevent them from going to the dentist altogether. 

Avoiding the dentist, however, can have severe consequences on your oral health. Without regular cleanings, you are more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease. These issues are also more likely to advance without regular dental exams. For these reasons, it is important to visit your dentist, even if you do have dental . 

This doesn’t mean that you need to be anxious the entire time. In fact, there are four different ways your dentist can help you relax during your appointment. These include: 

Dental Anesthetics

When it comes to visiting the dentist, one of the things that people fear the most is pain, especially if they are already in pain. To alleviate this, your dentist can administer dental anesthetics to the affected area. Dental anesthetics prevent the nerves from being able to transmit pain signals to the brain, which essentially means that you can feel pressure, but no pain. This allows your dentist to work on your teeth and gums without causing you discomfort. 

Laughing Gas

man receiving nitrous oxide sedation

Besides preventing you from feeling pain, your dentist can also help you feel more relaxed. One way this can be accomplished is through using nitrous oxide gas. Nitrous oxide gas is also sometimes referred to as “laughing gas” for its ability to cause feelings of euphoria. This method of sedation is delivered through a small mask that fits over the nose. Once you start to inhale the gas, you will start to feel relaxed within minutes. Although you will be conscious and aware of what is happening around you, there will be no anxiety. After you stop inhaling the gas, you will then return to normal with no long-lasting effects. Most people who use nitrous oxide sedation are able to drive themselves home after the procedure. 


Another option for achieving relaxation is oral sedation, which uses medications delivered through the mouth. Valium (diazepam) is an oral sedation medication that can be taken before your appointment to prevent anxiety. While under sedation with valium, you will still be conscious and aware of what is happening, however you will be uninterested in what is happening around you. In some cases, you may not even remember the procedure. Valium does have residual effects, which means that you will need a driver to bring you to and from your appointment. 

IV Sedation

Another sedation option to promote relaxation is intravenous (IV) sedation. Like the name suggests, IV sedation is delivered through a vein, usually in the arm. IV sedation is one of the fastest-acting and easiest sedation methods to control since it delivers sedation medications directly into the bloodstream. Under IV sedation, you may fall into a light sleep and will likely have no memory of the procedure. IV sedation does have residual effects, however, meaning that you will need a driver to and from your appointment. 

General Anesthesia

The final option to prevent dental anxiety is general anesthesia. General anesthesia will render you entirely unconscious until the medication wears off or other medications are administered to reverse the effects of the anesthesia. Since general anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation, it is generally only used when other methods are not expected to be effective. After receiving general anesthesia, you can expect to feel out of it for the rest of the day and you should be monitored by a friend or family member for at least the first 24 hours.